Joyce DiDonato-Diva Extraordinaire
The 1,500 seat Harris Theatre was filled with music lovers who arrived for the one-performance only of mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in War & Peace: Harmony through Music to find the evening’s diva (and self-producer) already seated upstage and posed. What did that mean? What was in store for us?
Imagine if you will, a 1970’s New York City dance palace with lights, projections, engaging music. Then enters Joyce DiDonato, diva of extraordinary talents whom The New Yorker calls “the most potent singer of this generation.”
With a voice “nothing less than 24-karat gold” according to the Times, Madame DiDonato has soared to the top of the music industry both as a performer and a fierce advocate for the arts, gaining international prominence in operas by Handel and Mozart, as well as through her wide-ranging, acclaimed discography.
Madame DiDonato is widely acclaimed for the bel canto repertoire of Rossini and Donizetti and the Baroque canon. She says: “The pendulum of human history has continuously swung between despair and hope, horror and bliss, chaos and tranquility.
We are a restless bunch, prone to desperation, separation and fear in some moments and yet, mercifully, top optimism, aspiration and generosity in others.”
Internationally acclaimed fashion designer and true living legend, Vivienne Westwood who helped set the style for modern punk and new wave music, dressed Madame DiDonato for the evening and her diaphanous wardrobe proved to be spot on as Madame DiDonato, who is reminiscent of Maria Callas in style and vocal coloring, never failed to mesmerize her audience with both her vocal talents and acting dynamism.
Quasi Rock Concert Format
The Kansas-born diva selected arias from the Handel, De Cavaleiri, Purcell and Jommelli for her quasi-rock concert and classical recital event. Part One was titled “War” and Part Two “Peace” and her offerings were all on theme.
The capacity audience of young and mature music lovers rose to its feet with approval and she sang two encores. The house was delirious with appreciation and joy.
Ralf Pfeger provided the direction to Henning Blum’s light and projection design which at times, flooded the entire proscenium with clouds, leaves, water and much more. The lighting design was always a surprise and became the set design with the smoke of completed battle and the hope of a new day as a phoenix rising. Yousef Iskandar delivered exceptional video design.
Il Pomo d’Oro Sinfonietta was under the direction of boyish Russian-born Maxim Emelyanychev who conducted the 25-musicians while playing the harpsichord. Their tempos never lagged and together with the direction and video and lighting, it all provided the background for a successful marriage of Madame DiDonato’s vocal and acting talents; in short – a musical marriage.
Rejoice! The world has Joyce DiDonato!
This performance was one night only.
To learn more about Harris Theater, and upcoming events visit: HarrisTheaterChicago.org
Photos courtesy of Harris Theater